Presidential TV debate: what are the priorities of the candidates

David Bakradze, Grigol Vashadze and Salome Zourabichvili have participated in the live debate on Georgian Public Broadcaster. Photo:, 25 Oct 2018 - 18:43, Tbilisi,Georgia

Presidential candidates Salome Zurabishvili, David Bakradze and Grigol Vashadze have participated in a live debate on Georgian Public Broadcaster on October 25.

Three days before the elections the three candidates emphasised the priorities and goals they would like to achieve in case of victory.

Government and state policy

“The incumbent government supports my candidacy and I am grateful for this but I do not belong to any party,” independent candidate Salome Zurabishvili said during the debate.

She said that despite the fact that the president will have less tools to govern under the new version of the constitution, there are plenty of opportunities for social innovation and development.

“This is why I say that the president will be the representative of society and work for social problems,” she has added.

She has named ‘bringing an end to the Soviet legacy’ as one major platform idea.

“The post-Soviet system should come to an end with its hidden audio recordings, hate and endless revenge. Civil society should be formed finally and the president will have an enormous role in the process. We do not want to go back to the past, we want to have a peaceful society which takes care of socially vulnerable people. I will be the woman and the president who will take care of this,” she said.

Presidential candidate from the United National Movement, Grigol Vashadze has named governmental changes as his major goal in case of victory.

“We should achieve a point where the government will be in the hands of national, western-oriented professionals,” he said adding that the major goal is to prevent oligarchy from taking hold of the country.

“We will end what has been happening in this country for last six years and this means that the democratic parties will be united”, Vashadze added.

He has also mentioned that former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been found guilty by a court for abuse of power in the high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006, will definitely return to Georgia as a citizen of the country and ‘he should have a right to live in his country’.

“If the law enforcement agencies or the court have questions for him, he should answer them. As for his political future this is not up to the Georgian Dream to decide. This is up to the Georgian people to decide and they will make their judgement,” Vashadze added.

Presidential candidate from European Georgia David Bakradze has emphasised that the only way for Georgia’s further development is through a victory over the ruling Georgian Dream coalition and the candidate supported by it.

He has criticised Salome Zurabishvili for not having ‘a sound vision and plan regarding the future.’

“The country needs to go forwards, Georgia needs changes and these changes should be peaceful, void of revenge,” he said.

Bakradze, as a presidential candidate, promised that political persecution will come to an end if he wins.

“I call on everyone to use their opportunity of making  changes for better lives,” he added.

Bakradze has named impartiality as the major mission of the future president.

“I used to work with the government and will continue to do so in the future as well when it comes to the topics like NATO, the EU, pensions...everything that is in the interest of society. I do not have any problems working with the parliamentary majority. Impartiality means being the president for everyone,” he said.

Foreign policy and priorities

Speaking about her foreign policy priorities, Salome Zurabishvili emphasised that Georgia’s society should be unified in achieving its major goal of Euro-Atlantic integration.

Grigol Vashadze also said that Georgia ‘should learn how to use the Association Agreement and DCFTA’.

“I would say Atlantic integration and EU membership since those processes that are ongoing in Europe, from Brexit to the Balkan countries that are in expectation of membership, gives us the opportunity to learn how to use the instruments that we already have - the DCFTA and visa liberalisation,” he added.

Speaking about NATO, David Bakradze said:

“There will not be a single step back. The recipe for Georgia’s peace and prosperity should be exactly the same as what the Eastern European and Baltic countries did. As quickly as we can join the EU and NATO, the more Russia will be obliged to recognise that Georgia is a neighbor country and not [just] territory it wants to control,” Bakradze said.

He has added that to him, there is no question mark that Georgia’s future lies in the EU and NATO and to quicken the country’s membership process is going to be one of his major tasks.

Economic development

“We should understand that NATO and the EU are not only security. They bring economic development as well,” David Bakradze said, adding that making Georgia safe for any investor would make it a place where they could invest.

“More foreign investment will create more workplaces and increase prosperity. One of the major tasks for the president should be communication with the investors to attract them in Georgia,” Bakradze added.

Speaking about economic prosperity Grigol Vashadze importance of decreased bureaucracy. He has mentioned that by limiting the bureaucracy costs in the public sector the government should increase pensions up to 400 GEL and teachers’ salaries up to 1000 GEL.

“Decrease in bureaucracy should happen through exams and assessment of the professional skills in public sector,” he said.

As for the independent candidate’s vision of economic development, Salome Zurabishvili has emphasised that there is a need for regional development in Georgia which is going to be among her major priorities.

She said the situation in the regions of Georgia should predict what kind of development reforms are needed in the country to be carried out by the government.